04 June 2011

Pacifism and Stupidity

James Altucher wrote the following thoughtful Memorial Day reflection.

As you'll notice as you read it, he railed against the stupidity of every war he mentions, and found none of them "worth it." I won't argue with him there.

He also says, incidentally, that he dislikes the fact that making this anti-stupidity point might make him seem like a "pro-peace" person. Being pro-peace, he said, is "not what this is about."

I wasn't the only reader of his reflections who wondered why he would insist on a distinction between railing against war and being pro-peace. Doesn't opposing anything usually entail holding out some hope for an alternative? I thought I had come up with an adequate explanation for what he meant, but then started reading the comments section to find my explanation up-ended.

You'll also see, if you go rather deep into the comments thread, that "dinosaurtrader" asks him about this matter too. "Why hate feeling like a 'pro-peace' person? What's so bad about that?"

He replied that this was a good point, and that perhaps a "shame factor" entered into his use of that expression.

That's where I jumped in, and I'll just reproduce here my own comment.

As to the difference between being pro-peace and being anti-stupidity-of-war, I thought you were making a valuable distinction. After all, in 1938 Gandhi wrote a rather fatuous essay on the ongoing persecution of Jews in Germany (which was of course still, as we can say in hindsight, in early stages), and I submit that his essay to which I will link you in a moment shows the limitations of what it means to be a peace person. He said: "But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the godfearing death has no terror."

If THAT is pro-peace, then pro-peace is pretty stupid., I think in retrospect at least there might be a lot more Jews in the world today than there are had there been more resistence: two, three, four, a dozen Warsaw uprisings.

On the other hand, the wars that you reference don't have a lot to do with the Warsaw ghetto uprising. So, yes, I saw your point (if this was your point) in dissassociating yourself from sentiments like that on one hand, while opposing the stupidity of war on the other.

I hope you don't abandon that distinction entirely.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.